What To Know About the Lepto Vaccine for Dogs According to a Vet

Three minutes
Apr 17, 2023

According to the National Institutes of Health, leptospirosis (or lepto for short) is the most common zoonotic infection in the world.1 It can spread from other animals to your dog and, in rare cases, even to you. For this reason, it’s important to understand the benefits and risks of having your dog vaccinated for leptospirosis.

What Is Leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria genus Leptospira, which primarily attacks the liver and kidneys. While some dogs might not show any symptoms, other dogs may show signs like vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and pain while urinating. Symptoms that emerge later could include jaundice, bleeding under the skin, and difficulty breathing.

If left untreated, leptospirosis could damage the kidneys and liver, along with causing blood clots. Over time, this may lead to chronic illness and could possibly be fatal.

How Is Leptospirosis Transmitted?

Leptospirosis generally spreads through contact with standing water or soil contaminated with infected urine, where it can survive for up to 24 days. If exposed, your dog can absorb the bacteria through mucous membranes like their eyes, nose, mouth, or broken skin. After your dog is infected, they can spread lepto through their bodily fluids, such as vomit and saliva.1

Can leptospirosis in dogs transfer to humans?

Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease — that means it can be transferred from animals to humans.1 While it’s rare that it spreads from dog to human, this may be a big incentive for dog owners to get their dog vaccinated to help reduce the risk of transmission.

What Is the Leptospirosis Vaccine for Dogs?

As the American Association of Animal Hospitals (AAHA) explains, the leptospirosis vaccine uses a killed (adjuvanted) version of the bacteria or other related substances to trigger an immune response in your dog. By allowing your dog’s immune system to develop the necessary antibodies with a “safe” version of the bacteria, your dog’s body can protect itself against future infections.2

As with any vaccine, vaccination doesn’t guarantee complete protection against leptospirosis, but it may lessen the severity of your dog’s symptoms. This can make it easier to treat and reduce the damage it may do to your dog’s body.

Is the Lepto Vaccine Necessary for Dogs?

Leptospirosis tends to be prevalent in areas with warmer and wetter temperature, or in areas with standing water. However, because it can spread through rats and other animals, it may also appear in a wide variety of environments.2

In the past, the leptospirosis vaccine was usually recommended for large-breed dogs living in rural areas. However, in recent years, leptospirosis has been found in dogs in both major cities and arid environments in states like New Jersey and California.2

For this reason, vets may now recommend adding the lepto vaccine to your dog’s annual vaccine schedule along with vaccines for conditions like bordetella, Lyme disease, and rabies.2

Does the Lepto Vaccine for Dogs Have Side Effects?

Like all vaccines, your dog may have some side effects such as flu-like symptoms or a low-grade fever, which should pass within a day or two. That said, your dog may be at risk for a more serious reaction like anaphylaxis. These types of reactions tend to occur in smaller and younger dogs, so consult your veterinarian about whether the leptospirosis vaccine is the right option.2

How Often Do Dogs Need the Leptospirosis Vaccine?

Because there is a higher risk of infection for younger dogs, the AAHA recommends that the initial dose of the leptospirosis vaccine be administered after 12 weeks of age. After that, it’s recommended that your dog receive a booster every 12 – 18 months.2

Help Cover the Costs of Lepto With Dog Insurance

The leptospirosis vaccine cost will depend on your vet, where you live, and the dosage your dog needs, but you’re most likely looking at less than $100 per shot.

If your dog isn’t vaccinated (or isn’t able to be vaccinated) and gets leptospirosis, you could wind up paying much more to cover the costs of diagnostic testing and treatments. Your dog may also require hospitalization to monitor electrolyte levels and provide intravenous (IV) fluids to prevent severe dehydration. In that case, your vet bill could easily cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Having a dog insurance policy with MetLife Pet may help cover some of these costs ranging from vaccinations through our add-on Wellness Plan to treating a pup with leptospirosis.3,4 To learn more, get your free quote today.

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 Dr. Hunter Finn

Dr. Hunter Finn is an integrative veterinary expert first, and social media star second. America’s favorite veterinarian owns Pet Method in McKinney, Texas, where he cares for pets while prioritizing their emotional well-being. When he’s not at his clinic, he’s starring in viral videos on TikTok (2 million followers) and Instagram (500K followers) — where he’s been known to snuggle puppies and conquer the latest dance trends.

1 “Leptospirosis - StatPearls - NCBI Bookshelf,” National Institutes of Health

2 “Leptospirosis,” American Animal Hospital Association

3 Available at an additional cost.

 4 Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review and approval. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain deductibles, co-insurance, exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions, and a listing of approved states, please contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC.

Coverage underwritten and issued by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 11333 N Scottsdale Rd, Ste 160, Scottsdale, AZ 85254 or Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886. Coverage subject to restrictions, exclusions and limitations. Application is subject to underwriting review. See policy or contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC for details. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator for this coverage. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois).

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